[Lingtyp] undifferentiated interrogative words

Randy J. LaPolla randy.lapolla at gmail.com
Sat Aug 15 12:23:23 UTC 2020

Dear Peter,
The Old Chinese word now pronounced [xɤ³⁵] (written 何 in characters and hé in the Pinyin Romanisation) could mean ‘what/which’ (何人 what person), ‘why’  (何必如此 why must be like this), ‘where’ (何往 where go), and also mark rhetorical questions (何樂而不為?why happy but not do (it) ). (Examples from the Han Dian (https://www.zdic.net/hans/何 <https://www.zdic.net/hans/%E4%BD%95>)). The cognate of this form is also found in many of the Tibeto-Burman languages with similar generality.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Randy J. LaPolla, PhD FAHA (羅仁地) 
Professor of Linguistics, with courtesy appointment in Chinese, School of Humanities 
Nanyang Technological University
HSS-03-45, 48 Nanyang Avenue | Singapore 639818
Most recent books:
The Sino-Tibetan Languages, 2nd Edition (2017)
https://www.routledge.com/The-Sino-Tibetan-Languages-2nd-Edition/LaPolla-Thurgood/p/book/9781138783324 <https://www.routledge.com/The-Sino-Tibetan-Languages-2nd-Edition/LaPolla-Thurgood/p/book/9781138783324>
Sino-Tibetan Linguistics (2018)
https://www.routledge.com/Sino-Tibetan-Linguistics/LaPolla/p/book/9780415577397 <https://www.routledge.com/Sino-Tibetan-Linguistics/LaPolla/p/book/9780415577397>

> On 12 Aug 2020, at 2:47 AM, Peter Arkadiev <peterarkadiev at YANDEX.RU> wrote:
> Dear typologists,
> as is well-known, there are many languages lacking a distinction between "animate" and "inanimate" interrogative words (see the doctoral dissertation by Dmitry Idiatov), e.g. Lithuanian "kas" means both 'who' and 'what'. I am wondering if there are any languages where interrogative words don't distinguish between such ontological categories as "place", "time" and "manner", e.g. have a single interrogative word which, depending on the context, can mean "when", "where", "how" and the like. 
> Many thanks in advance and best regards,
> Peter
> Idiatov, Dmitry. 2007. A Typology of Non-Selective Interrogative Pronominals. PhD Dissertation, Universiteit Antwerpen.
> -- 
> Peter Arkadiev, PhD Hab.
> Institute of Slavic Studies
> Russian Academy of Sciences
> Leninsky prospekt 32-A 119334 Moscow
> peterarkadiev at yandex.ru
> http://inslav.ru/people/arkadev-petr-mihaylovich-peter-arkadiev
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